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Posted at 9:07 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Report: Apple to eliminate boxed software?

By Hayley Tsukayama

MacRumors reported that Apple might be making the move to all digital software sooner than anticipated.

Citing unnamed sources, MacRumors said Apple is planning its move to complete digital distribution, starting by training new Mac users how to use the Mac App Store when they purchase their new Macs. The online store is already available to Snow Leopard users, and is expected to be a integral part of the company's next operating system, Lion.

A couple whispers and a some new user orientation are not a whole lot to go on, but Apple certainly is favoring digital distribution as of late, and it's no surprise to hear that it might be thinking of chucking boxed software altogether. The convenience of downloadable software, not to mention the in-store space it frees up for other products, is hard to ignore.

Many of Apple's greatest software hits -- namely its iLife and iWork application suites -- are already big sellers on the newly launched Mac App store. And there have been reports that Windows is seriously thinking about making Office suite for Macs available on the App Store as well.

Sound off: Do you want to see a move to digital distribution? Or are you attached to your software discs?

By Hayley Tsukayama  | February 8, 2011; 9:07 AM ET
Categories:  Apple, Digital culture, Gadgets, Mac, Shopping  
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Comments

There are places where internet connections are too slow, or even non-existent, for downloading software.

A reasonable solution may be to provide the option to have the discs delivered using the online ordering process.

This is already a common practice where a small media charge applies for the physical delivery of software.

Posted by: AlanBriggs | February 8, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Full disclosure, I'm not an early adapter. I'm feeling the need to be able to put my hands on software discs in case I've blown something up on my computer. Now that I've finally converted to Macs after decades of PC usage, I'm still needy in terms of having some sense of physical control and access to software.

If Apple can make me feel comfortable with my having immediate access to purchased software (Do not make me jump through hoops to re-download stuff I've already purchased!) then I'm all for it. I could use less 'clutter' in my studio/office too!

Posted by: Lightquest | February 8, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

This is a bad, or at least premature, idea. The only high-speed(ish) alternative for the internet we have available is two-way satellite which has a bandwidth restriction. Until that changes, larger files (>200MB) are impractical to download. At least Apple could charge us another $10 and send us the disk.

Posted by: mznblu | February 8, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"MacRumors reported that Apple might be making the move to all digital software sooner than anticipated."

"All"? And if I have to reinstall OS X, how am I supposed to do it?

Now, if Apple wants to make the DVD install disks obsolete, that is fine with me. Just replace them with a single flash (USB) drive.

Posted by: TheBabu | February 8, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The biggest elephant in the room here is going to be download caps on Internet access. If this is going to fly, then Apple is going to have to really seriously lobby for preventing ISPs from capping, or for much higher caps than are currently proposed by most of the monopoly ISPs. 5GB/month doesn't go very far when the Office DVD is 3.xGB.

I think the comment above about a small media charge or the ability to download and burn an image of the DVD is probably the more likely case in the short term; it's the compromise position that eases into the longer-term digital delivery plan. Most of the cost of retail software is still in the marketing and production costs for physical media, so the "make it yourself and save" message works well.

Posted by: dboyes99 | February 8, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I like the move to digital but i agree with the idea that physical software can be ordered through the app store for a while longer. There are places where people only have dial up. I'd like computers to have 3 or 4G like the iPhone and iPad have so you're not dependent on wifi. That may help cover those more isolated areas for digital download.
And...some computers don't have a cd slot. CD players in a computer heat up laptops and take up room, so those will phase out and digital is the future.

Posted by: mollytjm | February 8, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Inevitable and not just for Apple.

Posted by: dtracz1 | February 8, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm still a fan of boxed software. It gives me independence from system crashes re not be able to sign on, freedom from ISPs limiting the amount I can download, and I control the software I bought. I've had some quality problems with some of the software I've downloaded and had to wait for the disk to arrive. I always buy the backup disk.

Posted by: rsleonard9 | February 8, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

i'm responding from a new MacBook Air. I have no CD slot and have to use my iMac when I have to load from a CD/DVD. My OS backup came on a memory stick. I like it!
If the complaint is no broadband, there are always libraries or places offering WiFi - or just go to the Apple Store and download there - I assume they'll provide free connections.

Posted by: jeh1 | February 8, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The main reason this is a good idea is that its greener; no discs to burn - package - ship. It also happens to be a winning proposition for customers (convenience) and Apple (cheaper delivery channel). Am I naive to suggest Apple pass some of the savings on to the consumer?

Posted by: AhnTheMahn | February 8, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

How's that gonna fly with a 5 DVD installation, including "extras", as with Apple's Logic?

Posted by: HJS2 | February 8, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Software companies have a habit of stopping support, etc. when they want you to buy the new version. I have some old computers that are used for spreadsheets and word processing only. When I had a problem with a software program and had to reinstall it, the maker charged me for the effort. I would rather have control of the program with the cd, instead of be at the mercy of a company trying to figure out how to make some more money from me.

Posted by: Techtrader10 | February 8, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"5GB/month doesn't go very far when the Office DVD is 3.xGB."

It's even more amusing with Adobe Creative Suite. The install is around three hours from a STACK of DVD's. That would blow out the 5GB before you're half-way done. If not for the unlimited bandwidth (at least they haven't hit me up... ) 20/10 fiber optic service, the pure download world would be very challenging.

As a Pro user on older hardware... a freelancers income does NOT justify the newest and shiniest (so I am not a core market for Apple anymore ). I do feel that Apple antagonizes Adobe, at OUR peril.

Despite Apple's full on push at the "consumer" computing market, what about the folk who are PRODUCING content? I still prefer the platform overall - for the most part the OS, while not perfect, just WORKS and stays mostly out of my way. But it's entirely possible Apple could, through their structural and policy changes, drive us away.

Posted by: Samuraiartguy | February 8, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I want to response to the comment from jeh1. You obviously have independent money and no job, if you can spend your day going to libraries or an Apple store. Interesting that you would waste your time and money to get a MAC Air if you need another computer as a back-up to use it.

Posted by: Techtrader10 | February 8, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I want to response to the comment from jeh1. You obviously don't have to worry about money or a job, so you can spend your day going to libraries or an Apple store. Interesting that you would waste your time and money to get a MAC Air if you need another computer as a back-up to use it.

Posted by: Techtrader10 | February 8, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm on the digital only - go green - band wagon for personalization apps, but not for the core OS and "office productivity" type software. As an IT Support Pro, I've seen too many without OS reinstall media that never backed up the clean OS on their new hard drive like they should. Most excitedly jump right in to using their new computer without a second thought. That can be a costly mistake. If the hard drive later becomes infected or crashes, they are up a creek. Also not everyone has access to high speed internet. I hope that Apple and other manufacturers will continue to support at least the option for boxed disk, flash drive, etc. software.

Posted by: LadyTech1 | February 8, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Very stupid idea from the users perspective.

Posted by: dontsendnofarkingspam | February 8, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I just downloaded the OS 10.6.6 update, which includes the new App store access. A few of comments, and a note: I have not tried it out yet.

What they say is that the store will keep records of the SW you bought, so you can re download the SW you buy if necessary. This is the model that Audable.com uses for their audio books, and while I back up everything locally (I'm an old paranoid mainframe user!) I have found the ability to go back and re download purchases very handy. So the reliability concept looks good.

As a small developer, I like having Apple handle the initial distribution, and updates for me. Means that I can concentrate on what I want to do. Plus I will not have to have a backlog of physical inventory on hand to ship new orders.

The lack of high speed access for some (many?) could easily be a problem. But while some installs might very well be large, and I have to take others word for it, I can't see a scenario where very many people install 5+ GB installs other than very infrequently. I am not sure how large IT departments would handle it.

What I do see is the possibility of market for small Apps with specialized markets or uses. That would allow responsive developers to quickly develop and distribute products to address specific needs. The downside, not unique to this market, is that quick does not necessarily mean good and there might be a lot of junk produced, as in the early days of the iPhone App store. But that problem is also not unique to small developers.

Finally there is the possibility of an App being tied into Apple store account in a way that would allow transfer across one users computers using the same access key. I have not looked into that yet. Again, that has worked quite well for the iPhone Apps model.

Posted by: HappilyRetired2 | February 8, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

There won't be problems ONLY if Apple does it right. One problem I've already seen is iWeb. You buy iLife and you get iWeb as a side package. On the Mac Apps store, you won't find iWeb. Lack of attention to detail in things such as this is a PITA, IMO. I've e-mailed them about it...haven't seen a responses. So, I have to go to a physical Apple Store just to get iLife w/iWeb...that, or order and have it shipped to me via snail mail. :/

Posted by: unixfool | February 8, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

There won't be problems ONLY if Apple does it right. One problem I've already seen is iWeb. You buy iLife and you get iWeb as a side package. On the Mac Apps store, you won't find iWeb. Lack of attention to detail in things such as this is a PITA, IMO. I've e-mailed them about it...haven't seen a responses. So, I have to go to a physical Apple Store just to get iLife w/iWeb...that, or order and have it shipped to me via snail mail. :/

Posted by: unixfool | February 8, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I like to have a physical copy of my software on hand. So I will not be taking advantage of the new Apple Digital Software Download service at all.

I doubt that this will make any difference to them at all, but they just lost me as a customer.
Anyone want to buy a Mac?

Posted by: realneil | February 8, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Hi,
I do like how it frees up storage and all and with the Macbook air having no DVD/CD drive but as a person that has been deployed many times overseas often in places with questionable internet and having to have a long connection to get a download. This can become often become problematic and also if you every sometimes have to reload your OS or software as well and also multiple machines as well. I recently order software and it was sent on a USB drive I like that idea very well and can be used several times.

Posted by: dblackshire | February 8, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I have few problems with applications that do not require physical media for future updating (Roxio Toast, Disk Warrior are two that come to mind that require the original disks for generating update disks). Also, there are times when I need the MacOS X install disks, for example, to revive a corrupted system disk. So, unless updating of Digital Downloads is guaranteed without the original physical disks, I would not agree to this method. But, I would always want the physical MacOS install disks--somehow, Apple manages to pad them to exceed the capacity of a single-layer DVD, so generating my own install disk is not an option.

On the other hand, by sheer numbers, the vast majority of my applications have been downloaded electronically with no physical disks involved.

And finally, though a bit off-topic, and as a knee-jerk reaction, I would prefer to go on purchasing from the developer so that the developer would get 100% of the price without having to cut Apple a 30% share.

Posted by: stevegoldstein | February 8, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't mind downloading software as long as the file(s) and executables can be saved and re-used in the event of a hardware or software crash. Downloadable O/S should always provide for an ISO so a cd/dvd can be created.

Posted by: eddietel | February 8, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Not everybody can connect to the Internet when they need to, and not everybody who can connect wants to have their umbilical cords connected to Apple (or any other company). Apple should make the disks available in normal crystal cases through Mac suppliers, ditching all the cardboard to save on their shelf space and rescue some trees.

Posted by: donmunro | February 8, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

This from the company that still makes you buy an actual physical box just for an extended warranty?

Posted by: kevinwparker | February 8, 2011 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Almost all of rural Texas has Internet speeds of 2-45 kbps (which I suspect is also the norm for most wide-open western US states, much less rural folks in other countries). Unless you have a satellite service, you are just out of luck. And another commenter mentioned having to replace a hard drive. Try having 20-50 applications and having to download them all again, even at 5 Mbps. No thanks. If that is the route, then anyone who chooses the no-box solution is not getting my money.

Posted by: RHMathis | February 9, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

As a user of non boxed software on Linux for years, I can say that it really is the future for all PC software distribution. It just works.

I can download smaller packages quickly or run bit torrent overnight to download a DVD iso. I do have the option to send off for the DVD, but have not done so for years.

I'm not convinced Apple or Adobe will want iso image distribution of proprietary software, although management of keys should facilitate this. The few software keys I do have on my phone are all safely stored on email.

Posted by: Johnisabelle | February 10, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I like physical software, since the net connections can and do go down. But I like the idea of flash drive rather than CD. What Apple is really trying to do here is monopolize distribution of its software. How will retailers like Amazon.com distribute digital-only software?They offer better deals than Apple, and I think Apple wants to stop that.

Posted by: stuck_in_Lodi | February 13, 2011 2:49 AM | Report abuse

The move to electronic software distribution is inevitable, it is even incredible that it lasted so long. The only thing missing now is an application store for Windows too... some startups (allmyapps comes to mind http://allmyapps.com) are already trying to fill that gap before Microsoft does it. Personally, it's been years I did not buy any software disk.

Posted by: thibauld | February 13, 2011 5:31 AM | Report abuse

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